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Re: Discussion - non-free software removal

John Goerzen wrote:
> Thank you for your thoughtful mail.  Let me respond directly:

And I thank you for yours.

> If we go with the "set up another non-free repository" option, then yes, it
> is likely that they would have to manually edit their sources.list.  New
> users, though, could get a new entry in the same manner they would today --
> by answering yes to the installer question asking them about it.

Yes, they could have the installer automatically add a non-free
repository. But, that still brings up, to a much lessor extent, the
ambiguity that seems to be point of this proposal. How much does
having the installer add a non-free repository make users reduce the
potential confusion that of thinking that non-free is part of Debian?
Is this reduced risk of confusion worth the inconvenience to Debian
developers and users?

> I don't think it's a really difficult thing to do.  I think that if people
> want that software, they would be happy to do it.  I wonder why you think
> there is that reluctance?  I haven't heard of that brought up before, and
> I'm curious why you think that.

The relucatance that I heard from two users, one who introduced me to
Debian and the other that introduced to Debian is this: they are more
comfortable using packages from Debian mirrors because they know that
software has been created by certified Debian developers and that
package has been digitally signed by the Debian developer. One user
summarized it: "if the package is good, why isn't on the Debian

Also, as others have pointed out, making a non-free repository along
with maintaining a db of authorized contributors, checking package
signatures, rebuilding the archive for new uploads is duplicating
effort. Sure, one could port katie and assign new ftpmasters, reuse
the Debian keyring, but it is a significant duplication of effort that
will take time away from Debian developers who choose to work on such
a duplication of effort.

> The other option is to make greater use of contrib.  We could have far more
> "installer" packages, which would go out and download sources/binaries from
> an official distribution site, patch, build, and then install them --
> possibly as part of a postinst.  Users would not have to alter their
> non-free settings in this case.

Yes, I do that in my acl-installer and lw-installer packages. And, I
found it a major undertaking that is suscepitble to breaking as others
have pointed out. My preinst for acl-pro-installer is 270 lines long
with more than half that code being related to package downloading and
> That is true, though they could expect to have their non-free dependencies
> automatically downloaded from an official upstream site.  (You could just
> use wget to do that in the postinst).

As I wrote in acl-installer and lw-installer, doing this well is a lot
of work, much more that "just use wget".

> I still think that either using more contrib packages or using an off-Debian
> non-free is not a serious problem.  The contrib option is roughly analogous
> to the system used extensively by *BSD for many years, and is proven to
> work.

I've used FreeBSD extensively from 1995-99 when I sold the ISP that I
owned and operated. Their port system is helpful, but I found Debian's
binary distribution system superior. Thus, I no longer use FreeBSD and
instead have Debian installed in a dozen systems over 7 architectures.
As far as "proven to work", the port system does help, but it is not
at all uncommon to have a port package break when the upstream

As a final note, in my position as a Debian advocate, I've succeeded
in having several influential developers move to Debian from both
RedHat and FreeBSD. In each of these cases, having readily available
the packages that I support in non-free and contrib were major factors
in their switch.

I acknowledge there is some benefit, mostly philosophical and some
bandwidth and disk-space, in removing non-free from the Debian
mirrors. However, I stand by my original assessment that the detriment
of removing non-free from Debian mirrors far outweights the benefit.

       Kevin Rosenberg        |  .''`.  ** Debian GNU/Linux **
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